Census shows majority of Native Hawaiians now live outside of Hawaii

Local Hawaiian leaders worry about a loss of Hawaiian identity.
Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 8:42 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 22, 2023 at 10:58 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When the Hawaiian monarchy still existed, there was no question that the vast majority of Native Hawaiians lived in Hawaii.

But new data from the U.S. Census Bureau confirms a new reality for the 21st Century.

According to the 2020 Census, 46.7% of Native Hawaiians or part Hawaiians lived in Hawaii — down nearly 10 percentage points from 55% in 2010.

“The truth is, we see it. We see our people moving. We hear about it,” said Kuhio Lewis, CEO of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.

“This is our families, this is our neighbors, this is our friends. So we felt this trajectory coming a long time ago,” he said.

That’s why the CNHA held its annual convention in Last Vegas in June — the first time it had ever been held outside Hawaii.

“While we had our convention in Vegas, we got to hear first-hand the stories about how they want to come home, they want to be a part, they want to raise their kids here. This is their home. but the opportunities to support that life is just not available,” Lewis said.

“And it’s a travesty, because in the fabric, this is the soul of Hawaii, this is what makes this place special, generations passed down.”

It’s a dilemma that isn’t just impacting Native Hawaiians.

Many other longtime families are also moving away.

“It’s unique for many local families who are seeing their kids and their grandkids be forced to move out of their home because they simply cannot afford it,” said Jacob Aki, who’s president of the Oahu Council of the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs.

On a county-by-county basis, the Census Bureau found that:

  • Honolulu still has the highest concentration of full or part Native Hawaiians with 200,455.
  • Hawaii County was second with 59,320.
  • Maui County was third with 39,532.
  • Clark County, Nevada — which includes Las Vegas — was fourth, with 23,192 Native or part Hawaiians.
  • And, San Diego County in California was fifth with 10,965.

Kauai County didn’t make the top 10 list of counties with the highest number of Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander groups, including Samoans, Fijians and Tongans.

Local Hawaiian leaders worry about a loss of Hawaiian identity.

“We have to make sure that we’re providing cultural opportunities for our Native Hawaiians who are living on the continent to ensure that their identity as kanaka, their identity as a people, isn’t lost,” said Aki.

They also want to work on getting them to return to the homeland.

“We want them to be here,” Lewis said. “We want them to be a part of the future of Hawaii.”